Well, yesterday the temperature was ONLY -10 around noon so I headed to the barn to give more hay outdoors and fetch Zelador for a ride (first one in a long time). I walked through the small black gate and noticed that the gate to the girls’ paddock was open. Hmmm…. I checked the gate. Turns out the sliding snap on one clip was broken. I envisioned Dora rubbing her head on the gate. I’ve seen her do this.
None of the horses on the farm were talking out loud to me about the runaways and the three girls were NOT in sight! All was very quiet and peaceful. No demanding little pony telling me to get more hay, come play with her, take her to the arena, etc.
The snow on the ground offered many hoofprints. I gathered the three halters and lead lines at the gate, not really knowing HOW I was going to lead three sweeties at one time. Each halter only fits one specific horse, so I needed all three close at hand.
I started tracking. The sweeties had spent a considerable amount of time between the front paddock (facing the 15th Sideroad) and the roundpen connected to the barn. Apparently they enjoyed visiting Z and Z in that southwest corner of their paddock.
The hoofprints went up the driveway and turned right past the lower barn. More evidence of visiting with the boys. While I was scrutinizing the tracks the boys were relatively close to their gate. They looked at me, then turned their gaze to the north.
The hoofprints stayed on the driveway, mainly because there are no horses in the paddocks to the east and the west of it. When I approached the arena I could see the girls had travelled both east and west. I looked at the two Standardbreds (they’re in the paddock to the east of the upper barn). The Standardbreds were quietly grazing and gazing to the northwest.
I opened the arena door, just in case I needed the arena to round them up, then take each girl individually to the lower barn or paddock.
I decided to go counter-clockwise around the arena. As I turned the first corner I saw the Thoroughbreds at the gate, looking west. As I approached the second corner I couldn’t see Pax in his paddock. That’s a bit unusual because he likes to hang out between the eastern fence and the downward slope to the west.
When I turned the corner I saw Pax. He was grazing through the snow near the paddock surrounding the stadium jumping area AND that’s when I saw two dark horses, Angel and Spring Song. As I got closer to them I finally spotted the white pony wearing her light-coloured winter blanket against the white snow. All three girls were doing their best to find food under the white stuff. The paddock “gate” is always open, however it usually has three boards that can be placed to close it. Those were not there. I figured Bill used them to repair fences. Obviously I wasn’t going to be closing that gate to confine the girls.
The snow showed me that the girls had enjoyed exploring that paddock and had played in the stadium jumping area. I called to them and they politely looked up. Spring Song looked at me, then explained that when she pawed the snow, there was precious little food to be found. Just, exactly, where was the hay? For a brief instant I thought about replying to her, “If you leave your paddock and roam all over the farm how do I know where to place hay?” But, I thought the better of it and told her she was beautiful. This statement usually changes the subject.
As I walked through the paddock “gate” Dora came to me. I placed her halter on her head and lead her. I called to Angel and Spring Song and they followed. The three walked like lovely ladies, calmly with me through the snow. As I neared the entrance to the arena I decided to try to continue leading them down to the barn. Occasionally Spring came up to my left side, other times she walked behind us. Angel politely followed. The only time Spring got in front of us was when we were closing in on the lower barn. She walked towards the boys, then up the bridge of the bank barn. I called her a few times and she came and joined us. I don’t think anyone has ever led two free horses that were so polite and obedient.
As we got to the door of the lower barn I made my decision. I wasn’t going to put them in their stalls. I was going to place them in the front paddock and reinforce the snap closure with one of the lead lines also tying the gate shut.
The girls happily went into the paddock and welcomed the two loads of hay that I distributed AWAY from where the curious Lusitanos were gathered at their southern fence.
With all the horses in paddocks eating hay I pondered the round-up and realized that without thinking about it I had put the halter and lead line on the ONLY horse that would have made the walk “home” possible. Inadvertently I had honed in on the ringleader. If I’d put the halter on Spring Song or Angel that would have left Dora FREE and I’m quite sure the walk would not have been peaceful.